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Relative Genders-Comments-2

From:Jim Grossmann <jimg@...>
Date:Monday, March 22, 1999, 5:21
JimG -- Your points about relative gender are well-taken.   As for "alien"
languages, don't a lot of human natlangs have shape etc. classifiers?

>At 05:42 PM 3/19/99 -0800, you wrote: "As far as relative genders go, I >think there'd be some contexts in which the gender would have to be >'absolute.' Relative gender would introduce extremely impractical ambiguity >into sentences like these:"
>Why? You are specifying the gender in English by a word that means "female" >or "male." A language with a relative gender system would no doubt have a >word which refers to "female" or "male."
>Examples: "People trust female babysitters more than male babysitters." >If you were writing in Old Babylonian, the female babysitter would end in >"-[a]tum" and the male would end in "um." > >If you were writing in Oogaboo, which indicates relative genders, and its >gendersystem assumes masc-fem genders, and -UM was for same-gender and -AT >for opposite-gender, you would say (same /um/plural /u:/; opp. /at/ plural >/a:t/): > >"I hired a babysitter-AT because I trust female-A:T babysitter-A:T over >male-U: babysitter-U:"
>In this case, the PRONOUN is either gender-unmarked (unlikely!) or has >different forms for male and female speakers (I for men, ME for women), and >there are separate words - as in English - to denote gender. A woman would >say:
>"Me hired a babysitter-UM because Me also trust female-U: babysitter-U: >over male-A:T babysitter A:T."
>"Only the female of the species has poison." >(male) Only the female-AT of the species-? has poison.
>You can see how this would be awkward, though. I would prefer to use gender >only with animate, human-class creatures - humans, pets, intelligent >aliens, whatever - as opposed to slugs, houses, etc. I would make a third, >neuter gender which does not have a marker - ie. intelligent creatures are >marked for gender, otherwise the word is unmarked. Otherwise it would make >these monster-long sentences!
>And what about a truly alien language, one that humans could only figure >out on paper like a math problem ... with multiple genders relating to >time, shape, or place-referents? I-now speak of him-then and the like. What >a nightmare - and would make for some fun, fun work. An alien language >worthy of Cherryhian work would be fun to build - I especially like the >shape-referents. Tall gender, round gender, distance factors ... you'd have >way fun explaining why a species would want to indicate relative distance >so much it's built into their brains! > >You can see how this can be done, but it would be delicate work. >Genitalia-reconstruction, indeed! > >BB > >********* >"You know what I blame this on the breakdown of? Society!!" > - Moe, "The Simpsons" > >Everyone thinks I'm psychotic, except for my friends deep inside the earth. > >Only 287 shopping days left before the end of the world. >